FRACTURED AIR

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Posts Tagged ‘Bella Union

ANNOUNCEMENT: Xylouris White (AUS/GRE, Bella Union) / DALI, Cork / Fri. 5th April 2019

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We are delighted to welcome back the legendary duo Xylouris White for a Cork show on Friday 5th April 2019. All details are below.

Fractured Air & Dali Live present:
Xylouris White & special guests
Friday 5th April
Doors 8PM (EARLY SHOW)
Dali
Careys Lane,
Cork

TICKETS: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/fractured-air-dali-present-xylouris-white-and-special-guests-tickets-57166586800

photobymanolismathioudakisstanding

Xylouris White (Jim White and George Xylouris)

Xylouris White is the inspired collaboration between Greek lute player George Xylouris and the Australian, Brooklyn-based drummer Jim White. Both composers are legends in their own right, the former through his Cretan lute-led sounds of the Xylouris Ensemble, the latter through his membership of mythical Australian trio Dirty Three and myriad collaborations over the years (Nina Nastasia, Cat Power, Bill Callahan, PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, to name a few). Both have harnessed truly unique and unparalleled playing styles and levels of musicianship in their respective instruments where inspiration seems in endless supply at all times. Xylouris White create the kind of celestial, contemporary and powerful music which blurs all boundaries and constantly defies all categorization (and logic) in the process.

A passion for exploration comes naturally to Xylouris White, the ruggedly visionary duo formed of Cretan lute player George Xylouris and Australian drummer Jim White. For their debut album, 2014’s Goats, Xylouris White compared themselves to the titular animals, wandering fearlessly through rough-hewn terrain. Two years later, they showed how far their horizons could reach on 2016’s majestically expansive Black Peak, named after a mountain top in Crete.

Just 15 well-toured months after the band’s universally acclaimed sophomore full length ‘Black Peak’, the duo’s exploratory instincts drive them further onwards still on their third album, Mother, released last year on Bella Union, and named to denote “new life”. As Xylouris puts it, “Mother is the extension of Goats and Black Peak. Three things, all part of a whole. Goats are mothers, Zeus was raised on Amaltheia’s milk, Black Peak is Mother Earth… Mother Earth is the mother of everything.”

Across Mother’s nine tracks, Xylouris White nurture fecund growths from the spaces between their instruments. Sometimes the songs drive with an invigorating urgency; sometimes they brood, plead, yearn and lull. The duo seems to discover each other anew at every turn, teasing the songs out from their fluid chemistry with the kind of virtuosity that knows when to listen, accommodate and learn afresh. “A theme of the album is the significance of simplicity and a child-like approach,” Xylouris explains. “So, we connect mother and child and play instruments as toys. Xylouris White is still gestating.”

That ongoing gestation is a remarkable extension of already remarkable back-stories. Xylouris is a scion of one of Greece’s most revered musical families. His father is legendary singer and lyra player Psarantonis. Jim White, meanwhile, has commanded international attention for more than two decades as part of Australia’s Dirty Three. Now New York-based, White has often been called on to collaborate with numerous alt-A-listers (including: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, PJ Harvey, Cat Power and Smog), where he redeploys the rolling momentum of free-jazz to variously supple, sensitive and seismic ends. Most recently he performed with Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett on their acclaimed album “Lotta Sea Lice”.

https://www.xylouriswhite.com/

https://www.facebook.com/XylourisWhiteBand/

Credit+Manolis+Mathioudakis+DSC_4301.jpg+

 

 

 

 

Fractured Air & Dali Live present:
Xylouris White & special guests
Friday 5th April
Doors 8PM (EARLY SHOW)
Dali
Careys Lane,
Cork

TICKETS: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/fractured-air-dali-present-xylouris-white-and-special-guests-tickets-57166586800

https://www.xylouriswhite.com/

https://www.facebook.com/XylourisWhiteBand/

Written by admin

February 22, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Albums of the year: 2018

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Presented here is a list of our favourite (ten) albums from 2018. As difficult a task as this proved, we decided ultimately to choose the albums that we found ourselves turning back to time and again over the last twelve months. 

 

10. Earl Sweatshirt – “Some Rap Songs” (Columbia Records)

somerap-correct

Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, otherwise known as Earl Sweatshirt is a rapper, producer and DJ whose third studio album ‘Some Rap Songs’ was released last month to universal acclaim. The sublime hip hop voyage deals – in part – with the loss of his father, poet laureate Keorapetse Kgositsile.

“Me and my dad had a relationship that’s not uncommon for people to have with their fathers, which is a non-perfect one,” Earl wrote. “Talking to him is symbolic and non-symbolic, but it’s literally closure for my childhood. Not getting to have that moment left me to figure out a lot with my damn self.”

On the opening verse of the seductive dub groove ‘Shattered Dreams’, Sweatshirt asks “Why ain’t nobody tell  me I was bleedin’?” Masterful production and sun-blissed harmonies serve the rich ebb and flow of the cut’s gradual flow. The rapper pleads “Please, nobody pinch me out this dream” beneath the dreamy, hypnotic beats on the following line.

Memories of his father permeates throughout the lucid ‘Red Water’: “Papa called me chief/Gotta keep it brief” beneath stunning soulful  pop hooks. On the R&B inflected rhymes of ‘Nowhere2go’, the Los Angeles rapper explains the need to “redefine himself” and ultimately ‘Some Rap Songs’ finds Kgositile do exactly that.

The poignant ‘December 24’ is a menacing, slow brooding gem that places Earl’s poetic prose beneath cinematic piano tapestries. ‘On The Way!’ contains a sumptuous soul/funk groove. The tempo is slowed on the transcendent single ‘The Mint’ (featuring Navy Blue), another slice of pristine hip hop that serves a parallel alongside the likes of Madvillain and J Dilla such is its divine spell.

This compelling fifteen-track album reflects a hip hop artist that has further evolved and continually develops his unique and immense talents.

‘Some Rap Songs’ is out now on Columbia.

http://earlsweatshirt.com/
https://www.facebook.com/EarlSweatshirtMusic/

9. Marissa Nadler – “For My Crimes” (Bella Union/Sacred Bones)

for my crimes correct

Marissa Nadler, one of the most cherished songwriters of our time, returned with her captivating eighth studio album ‘For My Crimes’ last Autumn. The Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter has carved out eleven deeply affecting and soul-stirring sparse laments whose immediacy and emotional depth resonates powerfully throughout.

It feels as if the essence of the song is captured magnificently to tape wherein each beautiful folk noir exploration navigates the depth of the human heart with naturalness and ease. In contrast to the more polished and layered records that came previously (the magnificent ‘Strangers’ and ‘July’ LPs), Nadler’s intimate song cycles contain quite minimal instrumentation that crafts a hypnotic spell and striking intimacy (intersecting the sound worlds of Townes Van Zandt and Stina Nordenstam).

Nadler co-produced For My Crimes with Lawrence Rothman and Justin Raisen at Rothman’s Laurel Canyon studio, House of Lux. A stellar cast of incredible female musicians joined the recording sessions,  including vocals from Angel Olsen, Sharon Van Etten and Kristin Kontrol, Patty Schemel (Hole, Juliette and the Licks) on drums, Mary Lattimore on harp, and the great experimental multi-instrumentalist Janel Leppin on strings.

Some of the finest, most empowering songs of Nadler’s career is dotted across ‘For My Crime’s intense narrative. Emotive strings and meditative acoustic guitar drift beneath Nadler’s majestic vocal delivery on the windswept beauty of the album’s glorious title-track (and fitting opener). Nadler asks “Please don’t remember me/For my crimes” on the deeply moving, dusk-lit chorus.

The swell of electric guitar and drums create a post-rock grandeur on the sublime ‘Blue Vapour’: a raw energy is unleashed with each and every pulse. The hard-hitting impact of Nadler’s supreme songwriting gifts is distilled on the heartfelt lament ‘Dream Dream Big In The Sky’ which feels as if the words and music are somehow encapsulated in the faded dreams of the clouds above.

‘For My Crimes’ is out now on Bella Union/Sacred Bones.

https://www.marissanadler.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MarissaNadlerMusic/

8. Tirzah – “Devotion” (Domino)

tirzah-devotion.jpg

The year’s finest debut album undeniably comes from London-based songstress and producer Tirzah. The immense talents of this young artist can be felt throughout the album’s utterly contemporary and unique eleven songs. Steeped in R&B, soul and pop spheres, Tirzah’s fresh and alluring compositions very much belong to the here and now whose beguiling song structures forever push the sonic envelope. ‘Devotion’ is written and produced with composer and childhood friend Micachu with gorgeous pop sensibility and minimal production at the heart of the album’s gripping heart and soul.

The striking immediacy – and directness – of these songs makes a profound impact. The deeply affecting downbeat-soul of ‘Gladly’ is a delightful, heart-warming love song with hypnotic vocals and gradual beat. “All I want is you/I love you/Gladly, gladly, gladly” sings Tirzah on the breathtaking chorus. There is simplicity in the song (so it seems) but a complexity in the emotional connection. A gospel, R&B lament. ‘Holding On’ contains a quiet confidence and strength as the 80’s synth pop feel radiates throughout. Again, the minimal nature of these songs forges such deep emotions and colour.

The album’s towering title-track features guest vocalist Coby Sey with his soulful falsetto serving the perfect counterpoint to Tirzah’s understated voice and pristine beats. “So listen to me” is repeated like a mantra; reminiscent of James Blake’s downtempo creations. Tirzah sings “I want your arms” on a later verse, sung with such emotion and sincerity. This duet forms the vital heart of the album’s second half.

The guitar funk groove of the following cut ‘Go Now’ packs significant weight: “Don’t raise your voice to me” is sung in a delicate, near-hushed falsetto on the opening verse. Vulnerability is inherent in this breath-taking soulful lament. Acoustic piano patterns serve the sonic backdrop to the sparse ‘Say When’, brimming with melancholic shades of loss, “I felt you gone and now I am lost”.

Devotion’ heralds a significant new voice in contemporary music.

‘Devotion’ is out now on Domino Recordings.

https://tirzah.net/
https://www.facebook.com/TirzahMusic

7. Mary Lattimore – “Hundreds Of Days” (Ghostly)

Mary-Lattimore-Hundreds-of-Days

Having first discovered Los Angeles-based harpist and composer Mary Lattimore’s 2013 debut ‘The Withdrawing Room’ (released on Desire Path Recordings), each new release has been a hugely exciting discovery. On this year’s ‘Hundreds Of Days’ – and third release for the prestigious Ghostly label – Lattimore’s ethereal, dream-wave bliss of her harp-based compositions casts a spacious, luminescent and captivating sound world of unknown dimensions.

The gorgeous album opener ‘It Feels Like Floating’ feels just like that: the sacred harp tapestries drift in the ether of faded dreams amidst swathes of celestial harmonies. Utterly timeless. Jonsi’s Healing Fields remix is a fascinating re-interpretation that conveys the inspirational quality of Lattimore’s hugely unique and shape shifting compositions.

Guitar, keyboard and percussion is added on the poignant folk gem ‘Never Saw Him Again’: forging a dreamy pop opus from a past we have not yet quite arrived upon. The soundscapes and intricate layers continually build, as if reawakening some once-vivid memories of a loved one. The sparse ‘Hello From the Edge of the Earth’ maps the human heart and Lattimore’s love of the natural world. The lyrical quality of this piece is quite something to behold.

Baltic Birch’ blossomed from Lattimore’s trip to Latvia where she was struck by the abandoned resort towns along the Baltic Sea.  A desolate landscape is etched across the ambient soundscapes with the electric guitar haze recalling Lattimore’s collaborations with Jeff Ziegler.

The LA-based harpist – in much the same way as fellow contemporaries Julianna Barwick, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and so on – possesses the ability to transport you to an entirely new realm wherein the music becomes beautifully buried in the pools of one’s mind. ‘Hundreds Of Days’ is yet another gleaming treasure in the composer’s storied career.

‘Hundreds Of Days’ is out now on Ghostly International.

https://marylattimoreharpist.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/harpistmarylattimore/

6. Actress & London Contemporary OrchestraLAGEOS” (Ninja Tune)

lageos-main

‘LAGEOS’ is the utterly compelling, shape shifting debut full length release from renowned electronic producer Darren Cunningham (aka Actress) and the London Contemporary Orchestra. At the heart of this captivating record is both artists’ ceaseless fascination with sound wherein new pathways of discovery are forever attained.

The first traces – committed to tape at least – was last year’s beguiling ‘Audio Track 5’ EP. The divine title-track (which is also found halfway through the record’s second half) comprises of beautifully drifting strings that float amidst crunching percussive rhythms and piano patterns. The splicing of the various components creates a shimmering odyssey of rapturous, luminous soundscapes, where the abstract techno sphere is masterfully blended with modern classical elements. Importantly, lines become blurred throughout ‘LAGEOS’, one cannot pinpoint to any one musical landscape, for it is a far-reaching kaleidoscope of timbres, textures and tones.

LCO’s Hugh Brunt has described the collaboration as being “about exploring an ambiguity of sound that sits between electronic and acoustic spaces.”

It is a joy to discover new contexts and insights into the cherished Actress discography as classics such as ‘Hubble’, ‘N.E.W’ and ‘Voodoo PosseChronic Illusion’ become a deep stream of consciousness and energy flow. The meditative bliss of ‘N.E.W’ with an endless array of enchanting instrumentation, supplied by the LCO, flows deep into your veins. The irresistible cosmic groove of ‘Voodoo Posse’ serves the record’s fitting penultimate track before the joyously empowering ‘Hubble’s techno fueled odyssey maps one’s innermost fears and dreams.

‘LAGEOS’ is out now on Ninja Tune.

https://www.ninjatune.net/artist/actress
https://www.lcorchestra.co.uk/

5. Low – “Double Negative” (Sub Pop)

low_doublenegative

The much beloved Minnesota trio sculpted one of their finest, most empowering works to date with ‘Double Negative’, released earlier this year on the Seattle label Sub Pop. In similar fashion to 2015’s ‘Ones and Sixes’, the band enlisted B.J. Burton (James Blake, The Tallest Man on Earth) for production duties but here, the dazzling experiments are developed much further, forging deeply moving collages of cinematic, charged rock odysseys that seep into one’s very own consciousness. Abrasive beats and dazzling electronic components melt alongside Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk’s heavenly – soul searching – harmonies and Neil Young-esque guitar echo and reverb.

A dark undercurrent permeates throughout the record, reflecting these dark, uncertain times we find ourselves in. The brooding and hypnotic ‘Trying To Work It Out’ is classic Low with the slowcore bliss of Sparhawk’s highly emotive vocal delivery: “I saw you at the grocery store/I know I should have walked over and say hello/It seemed like you were in a hurry/I didn’t want to slow you down/So I figured out I should let you go.” Dissonance abounds. In many ways, the record serves a parallel with Nick Cave’s latest ‘Skeleton Tree’ – both records are borne out of a sea of darkness and despair but both records ultimately possess an incalculable empowering capability.

The delicate beauty of the meditative ‘Always Up’ is a precious ballad that depicts the frustration dispelled by the world today. The chorus refrain of Mimi Parker’s angelic vocal delivery “I believe I believe I believe I believe/Can’t you see Can’t you see Can’t you see?” emits a cathartic energy flow that is steeped in an unfathomable beauty. Rawest of emotions flood out of these recordings, feeling both vital and colossal in equal measure.

How the songs fade into one another is another marvel of ‘Double Negative’: the multi-layered textures and static that envelopes the space; creating something considerably larger than the sum of its parts. ‘Fly’ is one of the album’s most stunning moments with its Mimi Parker-led soulful dimension “Leave my weary bones and fly” is the deeply affecting chorus that reduces you to tears upon each visit. How the infectious bass groove melds with Parker’s falsetto leaves you dumbfounded such is its unwavering beauty. Uncertainty breathes heavily throughout. But there is hope buried deep in its gorgeous soulful strut.

‘Double Negative’ is out now on Sub Pop.

https://www.chairkickers.com/
https://www.facebook.com/lowmusic/

4. Djrum – “Portrait with Firewood” (R&S Records)

djrum portrait

UK producer Felix Manuel (AKA Djrum) is responsible for one of the most poignant, soul-stirring electronic records of the year with his R&S debut full-length ‘Portrait with Firewood’. The wide range of sounds – everything from modern classical and ambient soundscapes to gripping techno and dubstep flourishes – is one of the hallmarks of this remarkable tour-de-force. The emotional depth of Manuel’s electronic works is perhaps the most alluring trademark of Djrum’s scintillating sonic voyage. For example, the intoxicating electronic-infused classical opus ‘Blue Violet’ (one of the most mind-bending tracks of 2018) unleashes a timelessness that is all too rare in today’s dance music. Analog synths and strings are masterfully woven together amidst beautifully cinematic spoken word segments. “Do you remember how you told me about lightning striking? All of those things you told me to wait for?” is softly uttered by a female voice, beneath meditative piano notes. ‘Blue Violet’ details love, passion, obsession and all points of the human condition – the spirit of Nils Frahm and Jon Hopkins radiates throughout this towering composition.

Waters Rising’ sees Manuel collaborate with vocalist Lola Empire, crafting a beguiling soulful R&B techno gem. Several of Djrum’s piano improvisations serve the initial sketches of these compelling explorations. Techno bliss is etched across the album’s central tracks ‘Creature Pt 2’ and ‘Sex’; the latter fusing introspective piano and violin motifs and intoxicating techno/jungle beats (further highlighting the boundless nature of Djrum’s enveloping sound).

Describe by Djrum as a “confessional record”; the melancholic shades come to the fore on the record’s final third. The highly immersive ‘Sparrow’ is one of the record’s defining moments wherein a spoken word segment floats majestically beneath intricate layers of jazz inflections: “I’ll show you my scars/You show me the stars”. A rich poignancy is inherent in each of ‘Portrait with Firewood’s luminous musical works.

‘Portrait with Firewood’ is out now on R&S Records.

https://djrum.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DjrumMusic/

3. Penelope Trappes – “Penelope Two” (Houndstooth)

penelopetwo

London-based artist Penelope Trappes’ sophomore full-length ‘Penelope Two’ – and follow-up to her essential debut ‘Penelope One’ for Optimo Music – casts a hypnotic, luminous spell through its stunningly beautiful song cycles: drenched in reverb that somehow drift into the ether of our innermost fears. The stark intimacy of the Australian-born composer’s compositions is what strikes you immediately; evoking the timeless spirit of early 4AD artists (This Mortal Coil, Cocteau Twins) and kindred spirits of Grouper’s Liz Harris and Tropic Of Cancer.

On the album’s gripping centrepiece ‘Maeve’, the chorus refrain of “let go” is repeated beneath delicate piano chords and lucid guitar haze. I feel ‘Penelope Two’ becomes a process of letting go: to allow the waves of anguish and pain wash over you and, in  turn, to wrap your troubles up in dreams. The raw emotion distilled in Trappes’ soaring vocals casts infinite rays of solace and hope as light flickers from within the depths of darkness.

The way in which the drone infused ambient instrumentals (‘Silence’; ‘Kismet’; ‘Exodus’) are masterfully interwoven with the vocal-based song structures (‘Connector’; ‘Burn On’; ‘Maeve’) creates one cohesive whole of staggering beauty and emotional depth. The ethereal dream pop gem of ‘Connector’ possesses endurance to overcome the darkness. The immaculate production and divine soundscapes immerses the listener inside a wholly other realm. The chorus refrain “I am the connector” epitomizes the magical, far-reaching qualities of Trappes’ immense songwriting prowess.

‘Penelope Two’ is out now on Houndstooth.

https://penelopetrappes.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/penelopetrappes/

2. Julia Holter – “Aviary” (Domino)

aviary

The peerless Los Angeles songwriter and composer Julia Holter has long been carving out the most ground breaking and breath-taking avant pop masterworks and this year’s ‘Aviary’ reveals an artist at the peak of her powers. The album’s enthralling fifteen compositions explore further into bewitching experimental terrain as an abstract canvas of vivid textures, colour and timbres ascend into the forefront of one’s heart and mind.

The immaculate instrumentation and mesmerizing arrangements – a constant throughout Holter’s cherished songbook – lies at the heart of these stunning song cycles. The epic ‘Chaitius’ opens with gorgeous orchestration of strings, brass and choral lines that conveys the kaleidoscopic vision of the American composer’s newest musical venture. These sprawling, vast pieces feel as if the soundscapes could glide forever into infinity (and beyond). Holter sings “Open my wings with joy” on the opening verse; conveying the artist’s search for love and solace “amidst all the internal and external babble we experience daily”. The way the composition evolves and develops is akin to a process of self-discovery or acceptance. The vocoder/spoken word segments emits such rich imagery that reflects “the melting world” of today’s chaotic world we find ourselves in. Euphoria and an awakening sensation abounds on the glorious crescendo of Holter’s trusted ensemble (double bass as ever adding seductive rhythmic pulses to the sacred sound worlds effortlessly created). The continual striving for direction never feels far away: “Who will tell me what to do? Don’t say to feel so alove.”

It is clear with ‘Aviary’ that Holter effortlessly delves deeper into experimentation with sound; perhaps the first cue for the song’s inception was a sonic idea during the music-making process. The hypnotic, meditative lament ‘Voce Simul’ begins with a cosmic jazz bassline groove beneath Holter’s hushed vocal delivery and ethereal trumpet lines. The spoken word passages are masterfully blended with this cinematic backdrop: “I was just about to go outside” utters Holter on a later verse – inviting the listener on a wholly unique journey. As ever, the past and future become masterfully placed together – at once akin to “a distant mirror” of “a hundred minds” as Holter asks “How did I forget I’m part of the dust?”

The lead single ‘I Shall Love 2’ combined with its sister song – and symphonic rejoice – ‘I Shall Love 1’ form integral components of each half of ‘Aviary’s striking narrative. The former is yet another pristine pop oeuvre with gorgeous melodic flourishes and an awakening of the senses. The song’s deeply empowering rise “That is all that is all/There is nothing else” is a joy to savour; I visualize the moving scenes of the guiding angels in Wim Wender’s ‘Wings of Desire’ who listen to the thoughts of its human inhabitants. In a similar fashion, ‘I Shall Love’ (both movements) offers comfort and warmth.

The soaring beauty of ‘Words I Heard’ is steeped in 60s pop grandeur and Laurel Canyon pop perfection. How Holter’s achingly beautiful voice blends with the strings evokes a dream within a dream; a labyrinth of ancient and modern times – transposed to one sprawling, poignant canvas. The creative process is beautifully articulated on the fitting album closer ‘Why Sad Song’: “Oh ideas, Idea – oh why the words are made of?” But it is the dazzling, contemporary pop tour-de-force ‘Les Jeux To You’ that illustrates just how far ‘Aviary’s journey takes you on. The playful use – and richness – of words combined with the futuristic pop backdrop carves out something wholly unique and otherworldly. The deeply moving quality of Holter’s sacred artistic works is forever etched in the song’s gripping foundations: “I can hope for it today/I wonder though, if my heart tells me everything I need.”

‘Aviary’ is out now on Domino Recordings.

https://juliaholter.com/
https://www.facebook.com/juliashammasholter/

1. Nils Frahm – “All Melody” (Erased Tapes)

nilsfrahm-allmelody

Our most cherished record of the year undoubtedly comes from world-renowned, Berlin-based composer Nils Frahm’s latest masterpiece ‘All Melody’.

The immense beauty – and immensity – of the far-reaching soundscapes dotted across “All Melody’s musical landscape is a joy to savour. A myriad of sacred tones are effortlessly spliced together like that of the double helix pattern of each DNA molecule found inside our cells. It is as if a towering composition like “Sunson” unfolds, mutates, and transforms before your very eyes: the soaring juno synthesizer is melded gorgeously with the otherworldly sounds of the handmade pipe organ. The seamless array of colours and textures creates an empowering ripple flow of emotions. Choral odysseys dissolve into this vast sea of forgotten dreams. As the piece continually builds, the interlinked rhythms are forever over-lapping; magical moments within moments are captured at each and every pulse.

Modern-classical, dub and avant pop spheres are masterfully blended together on ‘A Place’. The inner dialogue between the components (choir, strings, percussion, synthesizer, and rhodes) creates a deeply bewitching symphony of celestial sounds. How the female voice is mixed with the luminescent juno synthesizer provides a significant milestone in “All Melody’s mind-bending oeuvre. Gripping dub beats awash with soul-stirring strings. The sonic terrain has expanded, almost exponentially. It feels as if a deep symbiosis exists between all of its vital elements; each one inter-dependent of one another, reacting, breathing and growing as the loop drifts forever into the ether of unknown dimensions.

The possibilities are endless. “#2” fades in – almost subliminally – as the embers of “All Melody” gradually dissolve. Techno bliss is masterfully etched across the sprawling canvas of synthesizer arrangements, creating, in turn, psychedelic dreams orbiting the furthest reaches of one’s inner consciousness.

The album’s penultimate track “Kaleidoscope” conveys the visionary nature of Frahm’s music: the pattern of the interwoven elements (choir, organ and synthesizer) is constantly changing; forever in motion and altering in sequence (in turn, generating endless possibilities). The immaculate exploration feels at once ancient and utterly contemporary; a joyously uplifting creation with its dazzling ebb and flow akin to a river finding its sea.

All Melody” is a defining record for the ages. This is a journey into sound.

‘All Melody’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://www.nilsfrahm.com/
https://www.facebook.com/nilsfrahm

Guest Mixtape: Two Medicine (Bella Union)

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To celebrate the release of Midlake bassist Paul Alexander’s debut solo album (under his Two Medicine pseudonym), the U.S. songwriter and musician compiles a stunning hour-long mix merging pop, tropicalia, folk, krautrock, and psychedelic spheres of enchanting sounds. Having played a key creative role in the recording of John’s Grant’s new album, Love Is Magic, Alexander will be joining his labelmate on his European tour this Autumn. Two Medicine’s debut record ‘Astropsychosis’ is out now on Bella Union.

twomedicine_mixtape

Last month saw the eagerly awaited debut solo album from Midlake bassist Paul Alexander. Under his Two Medicine moniker, Alexander crafts immaculate psych pop odysseys that navigate the hidden depths of the human heart. In a similar fashion to his Denton prog folk outfit of Midlake, Two Medicine’s songbook is at once wholly familiar and mysteriously unknown: sparse folk songs drift across the ether of Laurel Canyon and divine pop spheres dissolve across vast skies of Beach Boys grandeur. Like any remarkable record, the sounds captured on tape somehow permeates deep and far: forever delivering new meaning and rare significance.

As Paul explains, one key to its secrets lies in the project name’s nod to a national park in Montana:

“Two Medicine is a majestic place, without spoil. The land was ceded to the nation by the Blackfeet tribe. They were likely coerced into the deal, like most of the tribes who gave away their land. It is wild, humbling and probably collateral for the nation’s debt, where an inevitable capitulation looms. Beyond its geographical location, to me, the name Two Medicine represents a summation of this irony, whether created or inherited by the people of the United States.”

The stunningly beautiful lament ‘tmrw’ traces the lineage of those early 70’s folk masterworks of Vashti Bunyan or Bert Jansch. On the opening verse, Alexander sings “I got a call today/It’s curtains for the sparrow” beneath a soft strum of acoustic guitar. Quiet solace surrounds the melancholic shades of the fading dusk light.

The album’s title-track conveys the luminous space and artistic brilliance of Two Medicine’s debut full-length with reverb-laden piano notes and dazzling rhythmic pulses (akin to the era of The Band’s timeless ‘Music From The Big Pink’ LP). Alexander’s solo journey has only just begun.

 

Two Medicine – Fractured Air Mix – December 2018

01. Isao Tomita“Passepied – Suite Bergamasque, No.4” [RCA]
02. David Shire“Orange Light” [La-La Land Records]
03. The Magnetic Fields“Epitaph for My Heart” [Domino / Merge]
04. George Jones“The Race is On” [United Artists]
05. The Flying Burrito Brothers“Sin City” [A&M]
06. The Byrds“You Ain’t Going Nowhere” [Columbia / CBS]
07. Caribou“Melody Day” [City Slang / Merge]
08. Amon Düül II“Cerberus” [Liberty]
09. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard “Melting” [Heavenly Recordings]
10. The Valerie Project“Grandmother” [Drag City / Twisted Nerve]
11. The Incredible String Band“The Water Song” [Elektra]
12. Os Mutantes “A Minha Menina” [Polydor]
13. Novos Baianos“Brasil Pandeiro” [Som Livre, Mr Bongo]
14. Tinariwen“Mano Dayak” [Independiente]
15. Department Of Eagles“Phantom Other” [4AD]
16. The Cure“Plainsong” [Fiction]

‘Astropsychosis’ is out now on Bella Union.

http://twomedicineband.com/
http://bellaunion.com/

Written by admin

December 17, 2018 at 12:27 pm

Step Right Up: Two Medicine

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One constant throughout the process was an expectation that the sound and feeling be something I desired to listen to repeatedly.”

—Paul Alexander

 Words: Mark Carry

two medicine pic

Last month saw the eagerly awaited debut solo album from Midlake bassist Paul Alexander. Under his Two Medicine moniker, Alexander crafts immaculate psych pop odysseys that navigate the hidden depths of the human heart. In a similar fashion to his Denton prog folk outfit of Midlake; Two Medicine’s songbook is at once wholly familiar and mysteriously unknown: sparse folk songs drift across the ether of Laurel Canyon and divine pop spheres dissolve across vast skies of Beach Boys grandeur. Like any remarkable record, the sounds captured on tape somehow permeates deep and far: forever delivering new meaning and rare significance.

If ever a lyric epitomized the spirit of a record it’s the gorgeous chorus refrain of lead single ‘Gold’. Alexander sings “If you dig this gold/It’s all you wanted and more” beneath crystalline synthesizer motifs and a seductive bass groove. ‘Astropsychosis’ becomes a journey of self-exploration, infiltrating the forests of one’s mind, desires and dreams. A sacred dimension is effortlessly – almost innately – tapped into here; as the songs inhabit the forest space (in which Two Medicine’s title blossomed from).

The glorious opener ‘SF’ contains rich psychedelic textures and sumptuous guitar tones that meld beautifully with Alexander’s heartfelt vocal delivery. Layers of shimmering vocals and electronics form a dense haze, evoking the spirit of Scandinavian groups – and kindred spirits – Efterklang and Dungen.

The stunningly beautiful lament ‘tmrw’ traces the lineage of those early 70’s folk masterworks of Vashti Bunyan or Bert Jansch. On the opening verse, Alexander sings “I got a call today/It’s curtains for the sparrow” beneath a soft strum of acoustic guitar. Quiet solace surrounds the melancholic shades of the fading dusk light.

The album’s title-track conveys the luminous space and artistic brilliance of Two Medicine’s debut full-length with reverb-laden piano notes and dazzling rhythmic pulses (akin to the era of The Band’s timeless ‘Music From The Big Pink’ LP). Alexander’s solo journey has only just begun.

‘Astropsychosis’ is out now on Bella Union.

http://twomedicineband.com/
http://bellaunion.com/

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Interview with Paul Alexander (Two Medcine/Midlake).

 

Congratulations Paul on your stunningly beautiful Two Medicine debut solo record, it’s a real pleasure to ask you some questions. Firstly, please describe this public park in Montana – in which your project name I believe was taken from – and the source of inspiration nature and this particular place’s history seeped into the songs make up?

Paul Alexander: Thank you for the kind words. Two Medicine is an area with immense, mountainous valleys and glacier fed lakes in the southeastern corner of Glacier National Park. I’m sure I’m no different from most folks who visit, the place makes an impression. There is something daunting and a bit foreboding about it, as if the mountains know your thoughts. I think similar feelings found their way into the songs for sure, directly and in metaphor.

The majestic harmonies, immaculate production and pristine instrumentation are just some of the hallmarks of this formidable record. I get the impression the making of ‘Astropsychosis’ was an incredibly liberating experience? I would love to gain an insight into the record’s inception and over what time period have these songs been blooming into life?

PA: Thank you. The record was written and recorded over a 15 month period, beginning in early 2016 and ending the spring of 2017. I had a few ideas when I started, but the majority of the material was written and arranged in the studio. At the time, I had sung a good amount of backing vocals, but had never been the main vocal, so it was definitely a stroll into the unknown! I half expected the project to be abandoned, not knowing if my writing would be strong enough to warrant the energy required to finish. In hindsight, it has been quite liberating, but the process itself was often overwhelming.

A truly timeless pop sphere permeates the headspace throughout the record’s nine tracks, echoing shades of Midlake but also beautifully navigating new sonic terrain. Did you have specific reference points (be it studio albums or feelings or colour) in terms how you envisioned this record (from the outset)? What were the most challenging aspects to the creation of ‘Astropsychosis’? 

PA: Initially, I was imagining a blend of Pet Sounds with late 80’s/early 90’s shoe-gaze/dream-pop. I’m not so sure that’s really what has emerged, but it’s the world I was looking towards at the time. Most of the songs started on acoustic guitar and I tend to stack vocal harmonies, so I suppose a kind of dream folk was always hanging around, for better or worse. The project was largely a solitary endeavor, so the hardest part was to not get swallowed up in a world of minutia.

Life’s fleeting moments feel distilled on the album’s captivating title-track. ‘Gold’ is a timeless pop gem, a song I feel I have known all my life. The seductive groove to ‘SF’ is divine. But I love how the darker lyrical content is effortlessly placed beneath these pop motifs and intricate arrangements. Can you shed some light on your song-writing process and indeed if some of these songs proved much easier/quicker to write than others?

PA: Thank you. Honestly, I don’t have much of a defined process, especially since these are some of the first songs I’ve written. I tried a few approaches, yet there wasn’t much rhyme or reason to why one thing would work or another wouldn’t. One constant throughout the process was an expectation that the sound and feeling be something I desired to listen to repeatedly. Sometimes, I just didn’t think an idea was very good after I took a step back. At that point it didn’t matter how hard I had worked on it, I didn’t hesitate to find the delete button.

I suppose that most songwriters and composers can write quickly, but getting something I was willing to show others proved to be difficult. ‘Oblivion’ was probably the easiest from a composition standpoint, I had the core ideas in a few days and the arrangement came quickly compared to other songs. The synthesis aspect also developed quickly on that one, which was great. Every song developed in it’s own way, but that is mostly down to working solo, as I can only record one part at a time.

Please describe your studio set-up, a space you must be well acquainted with from Midlake recordings? 

PA: Eric Nichelson from Midlake acquired the bulk of the old recording equipment and the studio where we recorded AntiphonCourage of Others & John Grant’s, Queen of Denmark were also recorded on the same gear, but in a different studio. He was very kind to give me access throughout the entirety of the process, all I had to do was work off hours. It was a luxury for sure, as it was the only system I really knew at the time. The system is Radar, which is a bit different from the DAWs people usually use. You have to have a console and outboard, as it kind of works like a tape machine but records to a drive. It was one of the best opportunities of my life, to sit down with equipment I knew well and focus on being creative on my own ideas.

Please take me back to some of your most cherished memories with Midlake and making music together within this special group of musicians? 

PA: I really enjoyed our first Glastonbury, on the Park stage in 2010. It was a pretty great moment for us to be back on tour after the challenge of making Courage. The Glastonbury crowd was very gracious and made us feel like we belonged up there. Roundhouse in London the same year with John Grant and Jason Lytle was also really special. Speaking of John, making Queen of Denmark was a total blast. He wasn’t as well-known as he is today, but we all were really excited about his music and were super stoked to be a part of it. The Trials of Van Occupanther was a great record to be a part of, though very challenging to make. We often struggled in the studio, with lots of labor in delivery room. There were some nice times with Tim, the moments when I knew he loved what he was hearing. I think making the title track was one of those. The song was blowing us all away, then McKenzie and I started up the tape machine and got the bass and drums in a take, we knew it instantly.

A deeply spiritual and cosmic realm is wonderfully inhabited in this solo work of yours. Can you recount your memories of the recording process – and musical guests that guested on these sessions? Did you have this batch of songs fully formed in your mind prior to these sessions? 

PA: Making this record was arduous and cathartic, and I started it with so much doubt. The first 3 months were slow, I was getting a lot of sketches down but nothing had truly materialized into something I was confident in. One week, ‘Oblivion’ and ‘Kuopio’ both took really big steps almost simultaneously. I was really excited and sent them to Simon. He wrote back, was very encouraging and basically said, ‘I’m digging it!’ That had to be the biggest ‘wind in the sails’ moment. Eric Nichelson played some really nice guitar for me on a couple of tunes and my buddy Evan Jacobs played keys on another. Another big hat’s off to the great Matt Pence, who played all the drums and was basically my therapist during mixing.

‘Astropsychosis’ is out now on Bella Union.

http://twomedicineband.com/
http://bellaunion.com/

Written by admin

December 13, 2018 at 3:38 pm

First Listen: ‘Cloisters’ by Charlie Coxedge

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The track is called Cloisters, and the video really suggests those different spaces, both hidden and open, obvious and subtle, that we ourselves, as well as our surroundings, create.”

—Charlie Coxedge

Words: Mark Carry

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The exclusive music video premiere of ‘Cloisters’ displays the sublime guitar-based, solo instrumental work of Money guitarist Charlie Coxedge. Directed by Dan Jacobs (who also directed the gorgeous Money single ‘Bluebell Fields’ depicts slowly fading background colours whose shadows and rich textures create a wholly meditative, far-reaching effect. The gradual bliss of pristine guitar tones gently shimmer, echo and seep into one’s heart and mind, akin to the ebb and flow of ocean waves. The stunningly beautiful new track ‘Cloisters’ is the title-track of Manchester-based Charlie Coxedge’s forthcoming debut solo EP, coming out on Bella Union (26th May 2017).

Previously, we were thrilled to premiere Coxedge’s solo guitar work Corrour’, a divine instrumental that continually builds – and evolves – beneath intricately layered guitar tapestries. The six-track ‘Cloisters’ EP contains ‘Corrour’ in addition to the deeply immersive piano lament ‘Holly’ (as the fitting finale), the sprawling, monumental guitar work ‘Be’, a duet for piano and guitar (the achingly beautiful ‘Pentreath’) and joyous rhythmic pulses of ‘Dust’. In similar fashion to Julianna Barwick’s looped harmonies or Peter Broderick’s songbook, Coxedge’s debut solo work achieves complete transcendence with its stunning beauty and captivating spell.

 

 

‘Cloisters’ by Charlie Coxedge

Video by Dan Jacobs

‘Cloisters’ EP is released via Bella Union on 26th May 2017

To Pre-order ‘Cloisters’ EP:

https://bellaunion.greedbag.com/buy/cloisters-0/

https://www.facebook.com/bellaunionrecs/

https://www.facebook.com/moneybandofficial/

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Interview with Charlie Coxedge.

 

Congratulations on the utterly captivating solo guitar works of ‘Cloisters’. First of all, please talk me through the various layers – and counterpoints – to the glorious title-track? I just love how there is this close dialogue between all these intricate patterns of guitar melodies; like an ode to Reich’s ‘Electric Counterpoint’. Please shed some light on the album title too and the significance?

Charlie Coxedge: The title came after thinking about various structures and spaces. I think I just liked the idea of these hidden / covered spaces, usually around the edges of something else. They can be very reflective places, both in terms of sound and feeling, and I think that suited the music as various ideas can start quietly, then end up bouncing back and forth, and that movement within the space and structure can create more and more new ideas in turn.

The track Cloisters itself came from trying to slow down a bit, and not to over compensate for the lack of different instruments around. I had the title in my head and tried to imagine the various melodies reverberating around these cathedral-like spaces, so just having a clean tone to the music and uncomplicated phrases was important.

Can you discuss the making of the gorgeous music video of ‘Cloisters’ and the process involved? The meditative quality of the visuals matches perfectly the hypnotic guitar passages and the shades, textures and atmosphere created, in turn, heightens both mediums.

CC: All credit for the video must go to Dan Jacobs who did the the video for Money’s Bluebell Fields ( and aside from being a brilliant animator, he also makes music in various projects – glad hand, makeness, aeva). The only idea that he took from me was the slowly fading background colours, which I’m sure he would’ve done anyway! He definitely captured something great that really reflects the track – the way the different shapes and shadows, which seem fixed yet fluid at the same time, create more space, and more spaces in between. The track is called Cloisters, and the video really suggests those different spaces, both hidden and open, obvious and subtle, that we ourselves, as well as our surroundings, create.

Further on from the visuals, can you discuss the visual aspect of your guitar-based compositions and how your compositional approach has developed or evolved over the last few years? 

CC: The compositional approach, for me, is pretty much always about getting a certain feeling out. I suppose by not writing lyrics, the sound and atmosphere of what I’m playing has to evoke something almost immediately to make sure it’s an idea worth pursuing. The music definitely has a visual aspect, it’s hard to put into words exactly, but I suppose with the looped / cyclical nature of the tracks it’s easy to see patterns emerge and evolve.

I wonder have there been any happy accidents or beautiful imperfections so to speak that found its way on the ‘Cloister’ recordings? It feels like you are playing live in a room, is there much overdubs or manipulation done after these takes? Also, I get the sense from just how pristine the guitar sounds radiate throughout that the mixing stage may have been the most time consuming part (of the process)?

CC: There are definitely some happy accidents throughout the EP; creaks of the piano stool, certain sounds that we just found in the studio etc. At the beginning of the track Cloisters you can hear the creaky floor and my feet stepping on the pedals that start the loops going, which we thought would be nice to leave in as, like you said, it adds to the feeling of being in the room, and creating that intimate atmosphere is definitely something I’m always aware of when writing / recording.  The two shorter tracks that end each half of the record (Pentreath and Holly) could both be said to have been happy accidents. Pentreath was written and recorded almost immediately after coming home from my grandfather’s funeral, Pentreath was the name of my grandparents’ house in Cornwall. The track came together very quickly, the guitar was just one take – as you can probably hear it has a kind of improvisatory tone to it, but I really liked it because of that, and I think I managed to capture a feeling without labouring over the track or reworking it too much, which I’ve done in the past. The last track, Holly, was a complete accident really – I was playing the piano at my parents’ house and recording some ideas on my phone when our cat Holly came and sat on the stool with me and just started purring, which the recording picked up. Luckily what I was playing wasn’t terrible, and when heard on headphones is a really warm sound, so I thought it would make a nice last track.

The bulk of the music is all recorded live. The guitars are just me in a room with various loop pedals going to a few different amps, and a few different mics placed around the room, so that we can capture the various tones and blend them together to get the best balance, and make sure the separate layers of the loops can always be heard. The keys/piano are then recorded on top. I have a few go-to synth pads that I always use, but we did spend some time with different synths in the studio, as well as capturing the upright piano, to make sure that imitate, in-the-room feeling is always there. When it came to mixing, because we’d worked on capturing the right tones and sounds in the recording, the mixing was actually fairly straightforward.

The album’s penultimate track ‘Be’ is one of the towering achievements. I would love to gain an insight into the story behind this particular song and how long has the track been forming in your head? The way the piece evolves and forever navigates new dimensions is a joy to savour. 

CC: Be was definitely a track I laboured over and reworked a few times, and the end result is a combination of two or three separate ideas that found themselves working together. Working with loops, normally you record one thing and build on top of it, it’s hard to subtract anything once the loop is going. This track came from having that initial loop fade away underneath the new ideas being recorded, so there is this rolling, evolving feel to it. Eventually, then, it gives way to new ideas that fill the gaps in the older ideas, creating a kind of organised clutter of things bouncing off one another. The initial writing of it came after I saw a remarkable live performance of Music for 18 Musicians, the flow of the whole piece and the transitions between sections was incredible and massively inspiring.

Please discuss the composers and musicians you feel have been the most significant voices for you when it comes to your solo path?

CC: We’ve mentioned Steve Reich already, and his work has been hugely influential, as well as his contemporaries like Philip Glass, Terry Riley etc, to composers like Arvo Part and John Tavener. Film soundtracks are a big inspiration for me too, I loved Alex Somers’ work on Captain Fantastic and Johan Johansson’s soundtrack for Arrival was amazing.

More recently I’ve been listening to Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Luke Howard, Bing & Ruth, (as well as some great music coming from Manchester lately) but I suppose there are artists that I always return to who have been hugely significant to me – Jonny Greenwood/Radiohead, Sufjan Stevens, Bjork, Brian Eno, Elliott Smith amongst others – and then other artists like Nils Frahm and Julianna Barwick have been really inspiring both in terms of the music they make and their approaches to recording, performing, collaborating etc etc.

‘Cloisters’ EP is released via Bella Union on 26th May 2017

To Pre-order ‘Cloisters’ EP:

https://bellaunion.greedbag.com/buy/cloisters-0/

https://www.facebook.com/bellaunionrecs/

https://www.facebook.com/moneybandofficial/

 

 

 

Written by admin

May 3, 2017 at 11:30 am

Guest Mixtape: Marissa Nadler

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We are delighted to present to you a special guest mixtape compiled by the world-renowned Boston Massachusetts-based songwriter Marissa Nadler. 2016 saw the release of Nadler’s latest masterpiece, “Strangers”, released via Bella Union (UK) and Sacred Bones Records (USA). “Strangers” finds Marissa Nadler’s sonic palette expanding (synths and drumbeats are at times added to Nadler’s voice and guitar). But despite the added instrumentation and more intricate arrangements, a purity forever remains in the treasured songbook of Nadler’s forever timeless oeuvre. Beautiful subtleties exist within the sonic tapestries while striking imagery such as disintegrating cliffs, towering skyscrapers, darkening woods and deep rivers are offset with characters often feeling at odds with the world they find themselves in (or more accurately find themselves suspended into, all of a sudden). There’s a tangible sense of contrasting dichotomies lying at the heart of “Strangers” (between the familiar and the unfamiliar; safety and danger; darkness and light; life and death) which makes the journey Nadler takes us on all the more real. Tangible. Life-affirming. And like a silent witness we can quietly navigate that darkness with her. For we are not strangers after all.

Marissa Nadler – Fractured Air Mix – January 2017

01. Gene Clark“Gypsy Rider” (live) (Firefly Entertainment)
02. Scott Walker“Duchess” (Philips)
03. Black Mountain“Cemetery Breeding” (Jagjaguwar)
04. Black Mountain“Space to Bakersfield” (Jagjaguwar)
05. William Bell“I Forgot To Be Your Lover” (Stax)
06. Sonny Sharrock“Who Does She Hope To Be?” (Axiom)
07. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds“Rings of Saturn” (Bad Seed Ltd.)
08. Funkadelic“Maggot Brain” (Westbound)
09. Angel Olsen“Shut Up Kiss Me” (Jagjaguwar)
10. White Lung“Kiss Me When I Bleed” (Domino)
11. Grouper“Headache” (Yellow Electric)
12. Grouper“I’m Clean Now” (Yellow Electric)

‘Strangers’ is out now on Bella Union (UK) & Sacred Bones (USA).

Compiled by Marissa Nadler, 2016. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

https://www.facebook.com/MarissaNadlerMusic
https://marissanadler.bandcamp.com/

Don’t Look Back: 2016

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“Don’t Look Back” is our look back on the year from the perspective of both musicians as well as various members of the music community at large, who — despite varying geographical locations and backgrounds — all share the following in common: a deep passion and love for music. We’re both honored and delighted to be able to share the words of these special people through their personal accounts of the year that was: 2016. 

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André de Ridder (Berlin, Germany)

Co-founded by German conductor André de Ridder, s t a r g a z e is the the world-renowned Berlin-based contemporary classical music collective. Established in 2013, s t a r g a z e comprise a network of classically trained European musicians who have performed and collaborated extensively in a wide variety of contexts to date. s t a r g a z e have worked with some of the most accomplished and inspiring musicians working today, including: Boards Of Canada, Nils Frahm, Deerhoof, Julia Holter, A Hawk And A Hacksaw, Poliça and Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo and have performed at some of the most renowned festivals and venues in the world (BBC Proms at The Royal Albert Hall; The Barbican, London; Rewire Festival and Motel Mozaïque, Netherlands). André de Ridder is also Artistic Director of the 2017 edition of Musical Nova Helsinki (1-12 February 2017) and will curate next year’s East London-based Spitalfields Music Winter Festival 2017.

“People”
by André de Ridder

“Whenever we hear sounds we are changed and this is the more the case when we hear organised sounds, organised by another human being. Music.” —Karlheinz Stockhausen

How many tributes can you take… well… make?

As Amanda Palmer, whose joint EP in memory of David Bowie (arr. Jherek Bischoff) ‘Strung Out In Heaven’ started the ball rolling in February, said later this year: “HELLO! You know, I write songs, too”.

Mind you it’s not only about songs of recently deceased iconic artists, the Rolling Stones just released an album of old Blues classics, and Amanda Palmer herself, again, an album of songs her dad used to teach her as a child. The musicians in The National put together a massive and magnificent 11-vinyl tribute album to The Grateful Dead earlier in 2016, inviting a whole army of friends and bands and singers and ensembles to contribute, including stargaze, the orchestral collective I co-founded in 2013.

We revisit Bob Dylan’s catalogue and oeuvre all the time but especially lately via the hassle around his nobel prize, awarded to a songwriter for the first time. And last but not least maybe the greatest of all poet-songwriters of the last half-century, Leonard Cohen, also disappears from the face of the earth. The appreciation of the art of song, and the life-affirming, life-accompanying and -experiencing power of this form of human expression, seems to undergo an intense iteration, and has certainly pervaded my musical 2016.

From a classical musician’s point of view, we of course deal with and revisit and interpret songs of ‘other’ people, and long deceased composers all the time. It’s inherently ‘lit’ to indulge singing and playing other people’s music. The principle of ‘classical music’ reception and performance practice is in fact entirely built on that situation.

Whereas in pop/folk/rock the auteur’s personality is mostly just so connected to the song and it’s subject, most people cannot deal with the abstraction a so-called cover by another artist brings with it. The identification process is fuelled almost more through the artist’s personality than the song itself.

Mind you, in Jazz and Folk music it is also very common to express facets of the material picking traditional or classic songs and tunes, celebrating what riches lay in a given musical text. They therefore build starting points for many a journey beyond one singular manifestation.

The question in how far the written song can transcend and surpass it’s origin and it’s author is one that I asked myself often this year when faced with certain choices.

Why shouldn’t we sing/use/interpret songs of Bowie’s or Prince, in the way we do with a gorgeous and utterly moving Schumann song? What needs to happen in order to justify it? Or do Bowie’s songs lend themselves to this ‘treatment’ more than Prince’s? Whose songs are possibly more timeless or transcend the question of authorship and personality, will either songs survive in books/notation just as much as through original recordings? I will zoom into two occasions this last year, where I found myself in the midst of such situations and experienced certain answers, for that moment anyway, to those questions. One that came with a fair amount of planning/curation, deliberation and even agony (in the case of stargaze’s Bowie tribute concert at the BBC Proms this last July) and one of spontaneous, unexpected and intuitive beauty, performed with Poliça in Minneapolis in November, the city of Prince.

SAMSUNG CSCs t a r g a z e  rehearsing with John Cale for the 2016 BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, London, 29 July 2016.

When we prepared the Bowie concert, and Prince had just died as well, I already anticipated people saying: “Oh are you gonna do Prince next?”. Actually somebody around the Prom asked couldn’t we do a Prince song as an encore. No we couldn’t and wouldn’t. Everyone agreed. I heard myself saying in interviews that the same thing (that we attempted with Bowie) wouldn’t work with Prince (a few reasons, mainly that Prince was kind of always ‘Prince’ whereas Bowie throughout his career was a chameleon himself always slipping from one role into another, himself not being always ‘Bowie’ when writing and performing songs).

This sentiment was crushed to a good extent when I took s t a r g a z e to Minneapolis this November, shortly after the American elections, for a project initiated by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series. It had been planned for more than a year, independent of any current circumstances. It involved creating and playing new music with Poliça, who also stem from the Twin Cities. Their member and producer/composer Ryan Olson had been suggesting the idea of taking on a Prince song from his ‘1999’ album, called ‘Something In The Water’, after I  brought up the ultra-short, but beautifully orchestrated ‘I Wonder U’ from my favourite Prince album ‘Parade’, as a possible mini-tribute to playing in their city. The transcription of ‘I Wonder U’ was fairly straightforward, and our dear friend Greg Saunier of Deerhoof helped us with it, once again (and still I wasn’t sure if it made ‘sense’ to play it).

But until the day before the show at the Fitzgerald Theatre in St. Paul, we didn’t touch (and I maybe didn’t quite believe in, for reasons mentioned above) the other, i.e. another Prince song. However, that morning, before leaving for our last rehearsal I did have a go at penning down a simple orchestration of ‘Something In The Water’, which is originally synth heavy, though maybe suggests a strings-based treatment. The idea was that there was only the drum beat plus stargaze’s harmonies and sparsely orchestrated lines, no electronics or anything else, plus Channy Lenneagh picking up the vocals obviously. We played it through, not especially hopeful as it was so late in the process, literally in the last 5 minutes of our practise and realized we were onto something. Ryan more so than anyone else and he added another, genius tweak: he asked us to play it again, but by about 20bpm slower… It made for an overwhelming poignancy, in which the lonely drum intro sounded even more spacious, the slow drifting harmonies even darker in a viol-consort kind of renaissance-style with our two violas and two violins present, and Channy pitched and harmonized her vocals in an otherwordly effect and manner that made the song into something quite new, but one that Prince  seemed to quite literally speak thru from a far away, solitary but soulful place.

Transformed. After we finished that run-through Ryan stumbled backwards a little behind his mute laptop and made a hand gesture that signaled something like: “no words…” and nobody said anything but packed up their instruments letting the hairs stand on no end.

Of course this was all heightened by what just happened, a few days prior to that joint concert, at the polls. When we arrived, the band members and curators of Liquid Music, our hosts, were very visibly and moodily affected by the outcome and the outlook of Trump’s presidential election.

Months ago we had christened the project ‘Music For The Long Emergency’ and we had discussed something of the power of music (and the act making music together) that can unite people, provide hope and respite, but also a certain energy for a way forward, survival, and finding strength in and amongst ourselves.

SAMSUNG CSCs t a r g a z e  performing at the 2016 BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, London, 29 July 2016.

The word ‘People’ had come into focus at another memorable gathering and event in the run-up to the elections, a special, one-of-a-kind (maybe once-in-a-lifetime) music festival facilitated in Berlin by the Michelberger Hotel and it’s community, and which we co-curated at the end of September with stargaze, Aaron and Bryce Dessner, Justin Vernon, Ryan Olson and Vincent Moon on the premises of the former central GDR radio station, the ‘Funkhaus Nalepastrasse’, a heritage-listed building loaded with cold-war history. A non-profit, sponsor-less festival bringing together 80+ artists to create new music and collaborate without borders, programmatically mixed and presented in the end without any notions of rankings, standing and rid of ego-centred behaviour that is common in the non-classical scene just as much as it is in classical music. This place had provided us with the opportunity to develop our project with Poliça also, and when looking for a festival name, no name came about or rang true, no ‘branding’ required, but a motto emerged thru the artist Eric Carlson that would just read, inclusive and embracing, ‘People’, displayed on a huge banner/mural in the main hall of the location.

I think most musicians and supporters who have taken part in this felt that it was central to their musical and human experience in 2016, and felt empowered and recharged artistically from it, in that it reclaimed a certain space of a festival as a gathering, back to the roots of this quintessential idea, a kind of 21st century version of “around the campfire” but in lieu of the campfire a certain spirit and special place.

Music made in the moment and created for the ONE moment.

Nevertheless, it was and will be documented bit by bit on a newly created website and also radio station that one can keep up-to-date with on Michelbergermusic.com soon, if anyone is interested.

It seemed app therefore that we came back to a song by Bowie there and then, which we performed once again, this time on the stage of the newly created ‘shed-hall’ in the Funkhaus Nalepastrasse, on the last night of the festival which meanwhile we had dubbed ‘endless, nameless’, and the song was ‘Heroes’. Indeed in Berlin David Bowie had sung this song in front of the Reichstag in 1987, and by the Berlin Wall, where people gathered on both sides, and clearly he addressed ‘the people’ as equal (potential) heroes, and the ones on the other side of the Wall, most and foremost, in his moving rendition. It was a concert I had attended, actually my first open-air rock concert proper as a music-obsessed teen, not having the slightest inkling about what was going to unfurl two years later, a peaceful revolution that was set to overturn the regime and break through that wall, thanks to which we and folks from all over the place were able to be in that place on October 2nd 2016 and reclaim that space.

Brings me back to the 29th of July 2016, the day we performed the Bowie Prom at The Royal Albert Hall in London. Over a period of 3 months I had wondered, and we had wondered, who are we to be in this position, playing Bowie’s music, even attempting to re-imagine some songs in a different format/style, what right, justification etc. etc. was there.

But really, I felt it on that night, by having immersed ourselves so completely in his work, and by sharing this with many artists who had long-lived with his songs and celebrating this passion by putting so much effort in showing what these songs meant to all of us, made us connect with the man and his spirit, it became humblingly palpable on the night, as the ensemble was poised and focusing, breathing in out on stage for a good two minutes while waiting for the green light from the tv people, in the midst of the general anticipation, before launching into Bowie’s Brian Eno collaboration ‘Warszawa’, with a field recording of a train pulling out of Berlin-Schöneberg station which we had recorded two weeks prior. Our ‘audience’ with David Bowie had finally started. And at the end of the show, almost by accident another magic thing happened: Until the very end of rehearsals we had toyed with the idea of after all giving the crowd his arguably biggest hit, ‘Let’s Dance’. To the point where we had no time to ask anyone to sing it, which meant we had rehearsed it instrumentally only and at the end of the show, as all the singers paraded off stage, we launched into it as an encore, and gave it back to the people who roar-sang it back at us thousand-fold from beginning to end, not missing a word or a note.

Other favourite moments of that concert include classical counter-tenor Philippe Jaroussky singing David Lang’s recomposition of ‘Always Crashing In The Same Car’, epic arrangements of Blackstar and Lady Grinning Soul by Jherek Bischoff, presented with fierce intensity by Amanda Palmer and Anna Calvi, and Laura Mvula’s rendering of ‘Fame’ via Greg Saunier’s orchestration. Last not least rocking out with John Cale on his utterly idiosyncratic rendition of ‘Space Odyssey’, transformed together with the inimitable House Gospel Choir. I think these were all moments where another piece of art had been made, through collaboration, inspired by Bowie’s original song. And there you have it, the ‘justification’, the ‘why did we do it’, if it needed it.

SAMSUNG CSCThe Flaming Lips performing “The Soft Bulletin” w/ The Colorado Symphony & Chorus, conducted by André de Ridder. Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 26 May 2016.

I don’t want to close the ‘musical year 2016’ lookback without mentioning another highlight, a project that may not have been noticed in Europe so much but I hope will make it here soon.

Something I had worked on and dreamed up for a while: persuading the Flaming Lips to perform their album ‘The Soft Bulletin’ with a symphony orchestra (and choir). This became reality last May with the help of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, at the legendary Red Rocks Theatre.

It had struck me, ever since watching an intriguing Pitchfork documentary about the making of the album, since it had been created with so many orchestral, albeit sampled, layers originally, that it would make so much sense to try and recreate it with an actual orchestra. Which had not been done until now. It came together on a rather stormy night in the most spectacular open-air venue I have ever seen in my life, Red Rocks, the sense of being there in the first place almost overwhelming the occasion. It was also a pleasure and honour working with the band, the Flaming Lips being a wonderful and enthusiastic group of musicians lapping up the opportunity with gusto and passion themselves. Over the years they had perfected playing songs from the Soft Bulletin with keyboards and synths, and during rehearsals they gradually, like archeologists, removed those plasters to reveal the original orchestral sounds behind it.

Amongst the festivals and concerts I attended I need to mention, once again, is Iceland Airwaves, which took place at the beginning of November. In a way, it is another ‘people’ event, where the town of Reykjavík transforms itself into one large venue for 5 days, bands playing literally every other café, barber, petshop, you name it, along it’s main drags up and down town during the day before relocating to the ‘official’ theatres and halls. On those days, you’ll never see more people around with guitars on their backs, instrument cases in one hand and trolleys drawn behind them with the other.

I was conducting part of a sprawling Bedroom Community 10-year anniversary night at Harpa (another already iconic, if very new, concert space) which included great orchestral music by Daníel Bjarnasson, Nico Muhly, Ben Frost and Valgeir Sigurðsson but I caught a wonderful series of gigs when accidentally meeting and hearing the Barr Brothers (just Andrew and Brad, filling in for stranded label colleagues at the 12-Tónar record store), catching Kate Tempest close-up at a hostel, then Warpaint playing much of their new album back at Harpa, first time I saw them live after being a fan for a while. Three acts who couldn’t be more different, and every single one of them so brilliant and original. Which is why going to festivals is such a gratifying experience, and it seems to be an age where new festivals are still being created all the time, other ones going stronger than ever, and with imaginative and inventive features in no short supply. They are worlds created unto themselves, and I cannot wait to discover new ones next year, or return to familiar places which we trust and feel welcomed as both audience and artists. And people.

André de Ridder’s orchestral collective, s t a r g a z e, perform at the Musica Nova Festival Helsinki in February 2017, where they will perform Boards Of Canada’s “HI Scores” EP as well as new compostions written by Dawn Of Midi (Erased Tapes)’s drummer Qasim Naqvi (all info HERE).

http://we-are-stargaze.com/
https://twitter.com/andrederidder

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Oliver Coates (London, UK)

Several ground-breaking records from 2016 can be attributed to the gifted talents of British cellist and composer Oliver Coates. The London-based composer’s sophomore full-length release ‘Upstepping’ is undoubtedly one of the year’s most accomplished, innovative and compelling musical journeys with its meticulously crafted and sumptuously layered cello-based compositions that carves out techno-fueled waves of pure bliss and transcendence. ‘Upstepping’ is indeed (in the words of Coates) “pumped-up body music”. In addition to ‘Upstepping’, Coates performed on Radiohead’s latest ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ LP and most recently, released a collaborative work with UK’s Mica Levi (Micachu & The Shapes) in the form of ‘Remain Calm’, another crowning jewel of 2016.

Oliver Coates – ‘Don’t Look Back’

In 2016 I came off social media and felt better for it. More time and space for music, love and colouring in. Got a cat, moved into our formerly flooded flat. Got a fresh perspective on London, my birth-town, now living in SE1. Through music I do feel connected to being a Londoner and being from the UK. I went deeper into Autechre’s music, new and old, Aphex’s Cheetah which took me back into the Analord Series and the Caustic Window music.

I met for the first time and made music with these artists: Actress, Elysia Crampton, Catherine Lamb, Dean Blunt, and lastly Pauline Oliveros. I programmed a festival in Westminster in June where Pauline was our featured guest and we heard her acoustic, electronic, instrumental and choral music across three days, alongside music by Ed Finnis, Éliane Radigue, Laurie Spiegel and others. Oliveros spoke to people about a need for unity – it was the weekend after a political vote and there was shell-shock amongst some of the large audience, who had infinite reservoirs for listening to microtonal music. The 15-minute mass tuning meditation took us away. I saw Pauline again in the week before she died – she gave a cleansing coruscating digital accordion set at Le Guess Who and afterwards she was spritely and said to me in the corridor “Let’s do more.”

She had enjoyed our reconstruction of Daphne Oram’s orchestral piece Still Point from the 1940s (by Shiva Feshareki and James Bulley). It sounded like opulent pastoral music and a symphonic tone poem with a smearing of warped electronic sound laid over the top. Oddly English though indebted to Stockhausen’s sounds. Yet Daphne conceived of them first – this was the 1940s. The future in reverse.

—Oliver Coates

“Upstepping” is out now on PRAH Recordings & “Remain Calm” by Mica Levi & Oliver Coates is out now on Slip Discs.

http://www.olivercoates.com/
https://www.facebook.com/olivercoatesmusician/

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Peter Broderick (Galway, IRE / Portland, Oregon, USA)

Born in Portland, Oregon, Peter Broderick’s name has been firmly established as one of the most singular voices and prolific musicians in the independent music scene for well over a decade now. The multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer has released a plethora of records since his first self-released 4-track recordings from 2005/6, for such labels as Erased Tapes, Bella Union, Type, Kning Disk, Digitalis and Beacon Sound. Collaboration has always been a vital component of Broderick’s artistic output, having performed in both Horse Feathers and Efterklang, and making records (whether as producer or composer) with such artists as: Nils Frahm, Lubomyr Melnyk, Greg Haines, Felicia Atkinson, Laura Gibson, Brigid Mae Power and Corrina Repp. 2016 saw the release of Broderick’s seventh solo LP, the majestic piano-based full-length “Partners” and the EP “Grunewald” (comprising 5 tracks of live piano recordings made at Berlin’s Grunewald Church while Broderick resided in the German capital) via Erased Tapes. 

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2016 was a wild ride. For starters, I got married! And I moved to Ireland! So now I’m a husband and step-dad living in the beautiful countryside of County Galway. Our address doesn’t even contain any numbers . . . just the name of the house, the name of the area, and the name of the county. And there’s a stray cat whom I’ve named Yin-Yang, who loves to eat the food I put out and even comes into the house for a nap, but still won’t let me pet him. And there’s a couple white horses who roam freely outside our door, and they like eating apples and carrots out of my hand, but also won’t let me pet them. And sometimes there are some cows that graze in nearby field, and once I did manage to pet one of them for a minute, but for the most part they don’t like to come too close.

According to google I am a musician . . . but this year I turned into a full-time plant lover. I have spent so much time reading books about plants and taking walks in the nature, trying to befriend as many green wonders as I can. One of my personal highlights of the year (aside from getting married!) was attending a workshop up in County Leitrim in which we spent the whole day outside learning to identify wild edible and medicinal plants. And though I’m still a complete novice, I can’t deny how fulfilled my soul feels when I spend the day outside gathering plants, honoring them as best I can in the process (which often involves singing them a little song), and later preparing them as food or drying them to make herbal teas.

Of course, I did make plenty of music this year. In February I recorded my first piano-based album in quite some time, which was released in August under the title Partners. And in early December Erased Tapes (lovely record label!) also reissued some older recordings on an EP called Grunewald. This Autumn I played 23 concerts in 8 different countries (including my first trip to Taiwan!) with just my voice and a piano, which was quite refreshing after all the years I’ve spent carrying around heaps of gear, albeit a bit challenging and naked feeling at the start.

We spent the Summer in Oregon, and whilst there for a couple months I got the chance to work on a wonderful project with David Allred, in which he just plays upright bass and sings, and I just play violin and sing. I am looking forward to releasing our duo album in Spring 2017 and playing some concerts together around that time.

I think the biggest musical discovery for me this year was getting into Joni Mitchell. For years whenever I heard that name and even when I heard her music, it would go in one ear and out the other. But something happened this year and I felt something inside go click! It started with her album Clouds, which we listened to countless times on cassette in the car. That record is perhaps the most similar to other music that I already appreciated . . . but then, from there I moved on to her other records, and sometimes I admit it’s a challenge at first, but oh so rewarding if you just take the time to soak it in. What a beautiful and courageous soul!

I can’t say I picked up much new music this year, but I did find four records on the shelf which were released this year and have a special meaning to me:

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David Allred – Woods (Oscarson)

– Not only has David been a good friend and frequent collaborator of mine over the last few years, but he’s also been one of my favorite artists to follow. For me his music and creativity feel very unique. Sometimes when you get to know someone well, the mystique of their creativity disappears a bit . . . but with David I have had the complete opposite. My heart is continually warmed by his earnest efforts. He plays a large variety of instruments very beautifully, and his own lyrics have an almost unbelievably honest quality to them, as if he has direct access to some strange and deep thoughts that most of us are only dimly aware of.

Félicia Atkinson + Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Comme Un Seul Narcisse (Shelter Press)

– This is a peculiar and oddly beautiful record by two of my favorite weirdos. I’ve followed Jefre’s work since I was a teenager and he played in the band Tarentel, and Félicia is another artist who continually opens my eyes to the wonders of the Universe. When I heard the two of them had made an album together, I knew immediately that it would be an interesting listen.

Michael Hurley – Bad Mr. Mike (Mississippi Records)

– Seeing that Michael Hurley is well into his 70’s now, I was thrilled when I found out he had released a new album this year. And with a title like Bad Mr. Mike, how could it not be wonderful? His records are always adorned with his unmistakable artwork and made up characters, and his records (especially the later ones) have a way of making you feel like you’re sitting in his living room while he plays to no one in particular in the corner. And what an honor it was for me to go to his home and meet him early in the year! I had heard he was a collector of vintage radios, and I had a beautiful old radio from the 1920’s just sitting in the garage, collecting dust. So I reached out to him and asked if he might like to have it, and sure enough, a few weeks later there I was driving out to his countryside home and delivering the thing. Turns out he’s a member of vintage radio society, consisting most of “old geezers” as he put it. When he first saw the old radio he said, “This is going to cause a wave of excitement!”

Richard Proffitt – Pathways Written In Smoke (Stadt Moers)

I was very fortunate to have an ongoing artist residency at the Sirius Arts Centre in Cobh, Ireland, throughout 2016. I went there on three separate occasions to stay and work on music (and did some painting too!). And during one of those stays there was an exhibition in one of the gallery rooms by a guy from Liverpool (who now lives in Dublin) called Richard Proffitt. This collection of artwork/sculpture/installation made quite an impression on me, with it’s ritualistic, not-afraid-of-the-dark kind of feeling, and I really enjoyed meeting Richard himself as well. This record was available as a part of the exhibition in a limited edition of 30 (!), and I’m very happy to say that I have one of those 30 copies. I highly recommend experiencing one of his exhibitions, or even just finding his recordings of music and spoken word on bandcamp.

In addition, there are a number of records released in 2016 which I either recorded at my old studio The Sparkle or had a decent part in the making of in one way or another. These records I am honored to be a part of:

Brigid Mae Power – S/T (Tompkins Square)

MayMay – Mountains Hills Plateaus And Plains (Oscarson)

The Beacon Sound Choir – Sunday Morning Drones (Infinite Greyscale)

Laura Gibson – Empire Builder (Barsuk)

Rauelsson – Ekõ (Beacon Sound)

V/A – Oscarsongs (Oscarson)

 

—Peter Broderick

“Partners” (LP) and “Grunewald” (EP) by Peter Broderick are available now on Erased Tapes.

http://www.peterbroderick.net/
http://www.erasedtapes.com/

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Josh Rosenthal (San Francisco, USA)

The Tompkins Square label founder and Grammy-nominated producer Josh Rosenthal published his first book “The Record Store of the Mind” during 2016, a personal musical odyssey documenting Rosenthal’s lifelong passion for music, as both an avid collector and obsessive listener. During 2015, Rosenthal’s world-renowned label Tompkins Square (based in San Francisco, USA) celebrated it’s ten year anniversary, having released records for such artists as William Tyler, Michael Chapman, Ryley Walker, Hiss Golden Messenger and James Blackshaw over the years, as well as re-issuing an extensive range of folk, old-time, gospel and American Primitive Guitar albums, including its ongoing “Imaginational Anthem” records,  the acclaimed series focusing on acoustic guitar, particularly in the American Primitive vein.

2016
by Josh Rosenthal – Tompkins Square label

The people in my small universe – musical artists and creatives around them – seem to have values 180 degrees from where our Nation appears headed. What will creative people do in the face of this instability ? If anything, the election energized me. I feel emboldened to do more, put out more records that Drumpf and his kind would hate, or at least not get. And maybe give folks some small respite from the endless barrage of awful news. Kind of an extension of Leonard Bernstein’s quote : “This will be our response to violence : To make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly, than ever before.” Which isn’t to say we can just stop there. I am writing checks to the Anti-Defamation League, Southern Poverty Law Center, Marine Mammal Center, the Sierra Club, Doctors Without Borders.

2016 saw the loss of David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Ralph Stanley, Mose Allison and Merle Haggard. The outpouring of grief for Prince and Bowie was huge, but I didn’t partake viscerally because I never identified with their music that much. Leonard Cohen’s death was heavier for me, as he was the most overtly Jewish rock star we’ve ever had in terms of reflecting the faith in his music, and his first two records are holy texts unto themselves. Leonard felt like extended family. With these musical losses, and inevitably, so many more to come, I reflected on rock star death. It’s irksome when people react to rock death on social media with “Fuck You 2016 !” There must be a more graceful way to express grief. The difference between us mortals and our musical heroes is that they get to live forever. That’s something to celebrate – not something to go cursing the whole Year about…

I spent all of March and April on the road promoting my book, “The Record Store of the Mind”. I did about 40 readings around the USA, with help from some musical guests, at the kind invitation of many independent book and record dealers. I never really expected anything to happen with the book, but folks reacted to it, and as I like to say, if I knew people were gonna care, I would’ve written a better book. But it was good enough to get Robert Plant to offer an effusive endorsement, and UNCUT named it one of the 10 Best Music Books of 2016. My first reading was in Jersey City in October 2015, and I learned a valuable lesson : Never schedule a reading before your book is actually out, because no one will show up. Writer Amanda Petrusich agreed to Q&A me there, and she was such a good sport in front of my four friends who showed up, plus the store manager. A very strange thing happened earlier that day — I walked into a local vinyl store with WFMU’s Joe McGasko and they were playing Ron Davies’ rare LP ‘UFO’. Ron Davies is the subject of Chapter 1 in my book ! I’d never heard Ron Davies in any record store, and I’ve never seen his albums in the wild. How weird is that ? Things got a lot better on the book trail in March and April, highlighted by ace stops in Richmond, VA at Steady Sounds (w/ Mark Fosson & Diane Cluck), Rocket 99 in Kingston, NY (w/Peter Walker), and many others.

v2016 was a crazy year for acquiring records. I was driving up 6th Street in SF and my vinyl radar spotted a box on the sidewalk. I pulled over and started flipping – John Coltrane on Impulse, Wire ‘154’, Indian classical records, rare Contemporary Classical LPs. “OK, take the box and get out of here.” Threw it in the car. Took me about a month to get through that box, it was so deep. Then a friend who was moving house had me over for first dibs on a life-long collection of ambient, prog, Krautrock, experimental, K. Leimer, La Monte Young, Robert Wyatt, Roedelius, Eno, Cluster. Then my friend in LA let me have at her grandfather’s jazz collection. OG Mingus, Coltrane, Ornette, Miles. It was nuts. I found a Baby Huey LP at the flea market for $3 – but it had no record inside. So I went on discogs and sure enough, someone was selling the record without the jacket for $15 ! Not bad.

It was fun to watch my older (15 yo) daughter’s musical horizons expand this year, as she discovered her own favorites on Spotify like Andy Schauf, Joywave and High Highs while happily adding Dad’s suggestions to her playlists ; The Clean, The Smiths, Tia Blake. I took my girls on a wild musical road trip all over the South in June, which I wrote about here.

On the Tompkins Square label front, it was hugely gratifying to reissue two Richie Havens-produced early 70’s solo albums by singer/songwriter Bob Brown; bring out Brigid Mae Power (thanks to Mark Carry and Fractured Air who tipped me to her !) ; ‘Imaginational Anthem vol 8: The Private Press’, compiled by Brooks Rice and former Other Music LP buyer Michael Klausman, turned me on to some fantastic solo guitar I’d never heard ; Harvey Mandel, whose music I have loved for years, holed up in Fantasy Studios with Ryley Walker’s band and made magic. Just some of the highlights and more to come in 2017, when I’m slated to release a record a month, starting in January with Robbie Basho protegé Richard Osborn’s LP, ‘Endless’. Stay up on what I do !

Some of my favorite records from 2016 :

The most important record for me this year was by Daniel Schmidt and the Berkeley Gamelan, “In My Arms, Many Flowers”, on Recital. An American Gamelan composer who teaches at Mills College these days, these recordings are from 1978-1982. A stunning discovery from Sean McCann’s label.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V83cDrMfJug
http://www.recitalprogram.com/in-my-arms-many-flowers/

Australians Andras Fox (aka Andrew Wilson) and Eleventeen Eston (aka John Tanner) are Wilson Tanner, and their album ‘69’ came out on the promising Growing Bin label out of Germany.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5L0HKds8z0&app=desktop

Another label doing great work is RVNG. I mentioned the dude whose record collection I raided – he had a K. Leimer record, ‘Land of Look Behind’, and I really got into that. I had already purchased RVNG’s Syrinx reissue, ‘Tumblers From The Vault’, and then looked on the RVNG site, only to find that they had released a 2-disc K. Leimer set too ! These are both worth seeking out. Syrinx were a Canadian collective on the True North label run by Bernie Finkelstein, who has managed Bruce Cockburn forever. I know him, so he gave me some great Syrinx insights. Had to go and seek out the original Syrinx vinyl LPs of course.
https://igetrvng.com/shop/rervng08/

I dig what Dying For Bad Music has done with their limited-run CDRs, especially the Abraham Chapman solo guitar release, ‘Nothing To Leave Behind’. The reel-to-reel tapes, recorded in 1978, were found at a flea market. No one knows anything about Abraham Chapman. DFBM made a limited run of 82 CDRs and it looks like there are some left :
http://dyingforbadmusic.com/dfbm029-abraham-chapman-nothing-to-leave-behind.phtml

I really enjoyed Charlie Hilton’s January 2016 release, Palana, via Captured Tracks. I missed her when she played the Warfield in SF. I like her somnambulant, Francoise Hardy vibe. I don’t see a single media outlet picking this record as one of the years’ best. Maybe cuz it came out in January ?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzGRXlL5-3k

Onward !

Josh Rosenthal
Tompkins Square
tompkinssquare.com
Tompkins Square “Year In Review” via Spotify

“The Record Store Of The Mind” by Josh Rosenthal, published by Tompkins Square Books is available now.

http://www.therecordstoreofthemind.com/
tompkinssquare.com

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Benoît Pioulard (Seattle, Washington, USA)

2016 marked the tenth anniversary of Benoît Pioulard’s prized debut LP ‘Précis’, an album that is synonymous with the spirit and wonder of independent music at its very finest. Currently based in Seattle, Washington, Thomas Meluch has quietly amassed a considerable body of work in the intervening years: solo works for the prestigious Chicago-based Kranky label as well as numerous self-released works, music with Canadian composer Kyle Bobby Dunn under the alias PERILS (Desire Path Recordings), Meluch’s collaboration with Rafael Anton Irisarri (The Sight Below) as ORCAS (Morr Music) and “Praveen and Benoît”, the collaborative work with Praveen Sharma (Music Related). October 2016 marked the release of “The Benoît Pioulard Listening Matter”, the sixth album by Benoît Pioulard for Kranky.

This year, more than any other in my life, was predicated on a contrast between life and death ; mostly trying to live with fulfillment and peace as a slap to the face of the infinite, something like that.  Culturally we lost so many great voices and heroes (John Glenn, Buchla, Pauline Oliveros, Bowie and the other obvious ones) and one could say a lot about the end of truth & reason politically, but on a personal level I was gut-punched by the sudden death of my only brother back in March, three days before I was set to head out on a 5-week North American tour.

My first thought was, “I have to cancel everything and go home,” but after talking with some very close friends & family it occurred to me that the best way to deal with the shock, sadness and confusion might be to push forward in doing the only thing that truly matters to me in this world, and play some dumb songs for people.  Surely enough, the ensuing month (minus the weekend of my brother’s memorial service) was just what I had hoped — an escape from familiarity and routine, an extended meditation on the American landscape, and a chance to make some noise for a lot of lovely strangers as a means of catharsis.

My brother had always said he wanted to tag along for a week on the road with me, so I was pleased to get a small parcel of his ashes, which rode the rest of the way from Michigan out to New York, down through the southwest and back to Seattle with me.  Now he stays on my desk, near to where I do all my rehearsing and recording, and sometimes I talk to him but so far he hasn’t said anything back.  Our mother has been feeling his presence a lot lately though I can’t claim the same ; being from the same parents, though, I reckon that’s because we are each other in so many ways, and there is no difference between us, no “other” to be sensed.  I dedicated my new record to him, because it’s about getting over bad habits (we have both had our share) and I finished it the day before he died, the fact of which seems like some kind of cosmic exclamation point to me.

I have typically been pretty down about changing the calendar to a new year, even though I understand entropy, that time is an arrow and we merely impose these measurements — but at least symbolically I have never been more excited to say “farewell” to a year as I am right now.  Learn and grow and fight the good fight and so on…

“The Benoît Pioulard Listening Matter” is available now on Kranky.

pioulard.com
pioulard.bandcamp.com

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Eluvium (Portland, Oregon, USA)

Eluvium is the alias for the Portland, Oregon-based artist and renowned experimental composer Matthew Cooper. Born in Tennessee and raised in Louisville, KY, Matthew Cooper relocated to Portland, OR several years back and has since been amassing a soul-stirring body of work under his “Eluvium” guise. 2016 saw the release of his latest opus “False Readings On” (released via the Temporary Residence label), the album’s genesis was originally inspired by themes of cognitive dissonance in modern society. Cooper also makes music as Inventions, a collaborative project which features Cooper and Mark T. Smith of Texas-based post-rock band Explosions In The Sky.

I did not like this year. I had a great many issues with this year, quite honestly. BUT ! – there were a surprising number of wonderful musics and books that happened… more than i am able to remember at this moment of making this list. I’m probably forgetting many of them because of how distracted I am by how much I otherwise did not like this year.

Aside from finding constant salvation in the arts, I also enjoyed a lot of hikes and walks with my wife and dogs and those days were probably my favourite. I’ve also found myself composing a LOT more work than usual. So there were, indeed, good things,..and there are more good things to come.

Listening ( no particular order ):

– The Caretaker – Everywhere at the End of Time
– Explosions In The Sky – The Wilderness
– Biosphere – Departed Glories
– Daniel Lanois – Goodbye to Language
– Roberto Musci – Tower of Silence
– Kjartan Sveinsson – Der Klang der Offenbarung Des Gottlichen
– Bethan Kellough – Aven
– Christopher Tignor – Along a Vanishing Plane
– Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – In Summer
– Benoit Pioulard – The Benoit Pioulard Listening Matter
– Odd Nosdam – Music for Raising / Sisters
– Tangents – Stateless
– Fernando Sor / Narciso Yepes – 24 Etudes — ( a late discovery but worth mentioning )
– Hildur Gudnadottir – Saman — (another late discovery but also worth mentioning)
– Rachel’s – Systems/Layers vinyl reissue

Reading ( no particular order / no particular year release ):

– John Wray – The Lost Time Accidents
– Patrick Dewitt – Undermajordomo Minor
– Jonathan Lethem – Gambler’s Anatomy
– John Muir – Wilderness Essays (reissue)
– Ethan Canin – A Doubter’s Almanac
– Haruki Murakami – Hear the Wind Sing/Pinball 1973 (reissue)

“False Readings On” is available now on Temporary Residence.

http://www.eluvium.net/
https://www.temporaryresidence.com/

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Brigid Mae Power (Galway, Ireland)

Having been a firmly established and longtime admired songwriter in her native Irish shores, the breathtaking Irish songwriter Brigid Mae Power released her extraordinary self-titled LP “Brigid Mae Power” via US label Tompkins Square earlier this year to widespread critical acclaim. The album was recorded with U.S. composer and producer Peter Broderick at his hometown studio “The Sparkle” in Portland, Oregon and features eight tracks of fragile beauty in her own inimitable and wholly unique approach as a songwriter (as anyone who has witnessed Power’s incendiary live shows will testify). Such is the album’s timeless brilliance, the nearest parallels that can be drawn to Power’s quietly unassuming, divine artistry are those blessed folk spirits of bygone times such as Sibylle Baier, Tia Blake or Margaret Barry. 

I’m sitting on a Ryanair plane right now on my way back from Glasgow, where last night I played my final gig of the year. I played at The Glad Café with Mike Heron and The Trembling Bells.

I’m not great at doing my research or homework with who I am playing with, partly because I just seem to be in a scattered daze a lot of the time, but mostly because I can’t find much time to listen to new and old music. But I don’t mind because it means I can be really surprised out of the blue as I have no expectations. Mike Heron and the Trembling Bells were so warm, odd, brilliant and heartfelt. I wanted to hug them all while they were playing. The lyrics were so bizarre also. Mike Heron was in The Incredible String band who I know virtually nothing about, but will now try and get some of their records.

2016 was a great year for me. I released my self-titled album with Tompkins Square Records and I also got to experience playing shows in countries I had never previously visited. I went to Japan in September, played in an old school, a Buddhist temple and an old jazz club. I got to eat the most amazing food I had ever tasted. I came home feeling sick at the sight of cheese and bread and made myself noodle soups for the first few weeks when I got home.

I played at Le Guess Who Festival in Utrecht and got to see how pretty that place is and play my favourite bill ever with my husband and my sister-in-law..
I got to spend most of the summer in Portland, Oregon, and also by the coast in Oregon. I got to spend time around beautiful tall trees, see vultures circling around my head and lie down in the sun for days and days. I literally just let my body warm up as much as it could and dry up all that Irish damp that had been in my bones for years. Whilst lying down I drew a lot, I did read too but I can’t really remember what I was reading.

Right now I am reading ‘M Train’ by Patti Smith, which I love. I love her daily routine of sitting in cafés drinking coffee and writing. I used to do the same except with drawing mostly instead of writing, when I was in my early twenties. But when I returned to Galway I no longer felt anonymous in cafés, everyone would ask “ooh what are ya drawing?” or “Oh right, that looks a little strange!” and it just made me too self-conscious so I would draw at home instead. But there’s something about working in an atmosphere where life is going on around you, but not paying attention to you, that I love.

Musically 2016 saw a bit of a Joni Mitchell binge for me. Especially in most recent months. ‘Clouds’, ‘Miles of Aisles’, ‘Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter’, ‘Court and Spark’, ‘For the Roses’ and ‘Night Ride Home’. I devoured all of them! And I still am. I knew bits of all of them before but I had never listened to them in such depth. I also listened a lot to Andy Irvine and Paul Brady’s album.. I started running a few weeks ago and started to listening to some old jazz albums to get me to moving…Art Blakey’s ‘Witch Doctor’ to be exact.

I finished Elena Ferrante’s fourth Neapolitan novel in 2016 I think…or it might’ve still been 2015. Oh! Twin Peaks! I was first introduced to Twin Peaks just this year.. I loved everything about the first season, the second season creeped me out and scared me too much but I still managed to watch it and love it.

Anyway 2016 has been an exciting year and I think I have missed out on a lot of things and events etc. but maybe it’s because I’m still experiencing them and haven’t had time to reflect..

Ok I have to go now as I am juggling writing this and watching a 6-year-old run crazy around an indoor play place, which really does sum up what I’ve done mostly this year. Crazy-mother-music-juggle.

—Brigid Mae Power

“Brigid Mae Power” is available now on Tompkins Square.

http://brigidmaepower.com/
http://www.tompkinssquare.com/

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Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (Dublin, Ireland) 

2016 was another busy year for the ever-prolific Irish composer and fiddle player Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh. As well as releasing the second album by The Gloaming (“2” via Real World Records), the world-renowned quintet also toured extensively throughout 2016 to sell-out audiences at both home and abroad. Ó Raghallaigh also toured and performed across Ireland with the Dingle-based concertina player Cormac Begley (bass, baritone, treble and piccolo concertinas). As well as performing with The Gloaming (alongside Iarla Ó Lionáird, Martin Hayes, Dennis Cahill and Thomas Bartlett), Ó Raghallaigh also performs with This Is How We Fly, another inspired contemporary supergroup, consisting of Ó Raghallaigh on hardanger fiddle, Seán Mac Erlaine on clarinets and electronics, Nic Gareiss on percussive dance and Petter Berndalen on drums. This Is How We Fly’s second album is due to be recorded in January 2017.

I didn’t buy many records in 2016, hardly read a book, and barely set foot in a cinema all year. But it was a great year of making things for me. It started out with DIY, actually, putting in a new kitchen, tiling, plumbing and the whole lot. Thanks, Google, you saved my life!

We had a great writing week at the Tyrone Guthrie with This is How we Fly early in the year. What a magical place that is, a retreat centre beside a lake in Monaghan, dedicated to giving space to artists for them to do their thing. Then there was The Gloaming run at the NCH, and the release of the new album. I came to see a lot of the NCH over the first half of the year – I was artist-in-residence in their new Kevin Barry Recital Room, which was a lovely opportunity to work with some remarkable musicians.

In terms of listening to music, Seán Mac Erlaine’s Duo Series of concerts was immensely enjoyable – two of them stood out for me: his duo with Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset in which they created glorious landscapes of sound; and his duo with Norwegian musician Jan Bang, a properly marvellous live-sampling dance that stands out as my favourite gig of the year.

Watched some amazing stuff on Netflix this year: Black Mirror and Stranger Things were two of my favourites. Future Islands. Found an amazing new tuning for the 10-string fiddle that is deeply satisfying!

For 2017, I think I’d like to focus on some solo stuff a bit more, especially with the live-processing coding up and running now. Do a few more courses, continue to learn and expand. And maybe think about making a solo record of it all.

We’ll be recording the new This is How we Fly album in January, thanks to our recently completed and successful FundIt campaign. Plus there are a few more albums already up the sleeve, so it could be a busy year for the releases!

—Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh

“2” by The Gloaming is available now on Real World Records.

http://www.caoimhinoraghallaigh.com/
http://www.thegloaming.net/

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George Xylouris (Crete, Greece)

Legendary lute player George Xylouris released his second album with duo Xylouris White this year – the inspired, earth-shattering collaboration with world-renowned Brooklyn-based drummer Jim White of Melbourne’s mythical trio Dirty Three – entitled “Black Peak” (Bella Union), the follow-up to the duo’s equally sublime 2014 debut “Goats” (Other Music Recording Co.). Xylouris hails from Anogeia, a mountain shepherding village set into the hills of Crete, down the hill from the Cave of Zeus (“Black Peak” itself is named after a mountaintop in Crete). George Xylouris, a true master of the Cretan lute, also performs with The Xylouris Ensemble (which also features his three Greek-Australian children). Xylouris White toured extensively throughout the globe this year, with extensive shows throughout Europe, USA and Australia. 

I don’t know how to start this but to me the highlight of this what I’m doing now with Xylouris White is exactly that: to be with Jim White and play around the world.

I’m playing wonderful places and venues with beautiful audiences and that’s the most enjoyable stuff which I had all this time. I play my instrument almost 40 years now.

Highlight is to meet all these nice people. Musicians or not musicians and work with these people.

Here are some photos from our 2016 tours:

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(i).
Xylouris White at Fox Theatre Oakland, San Francisco a few hours before the show with Godspeed you! Black Emperor. One of the most beautiful theatres I ever played. February 4th 2016.

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(ii).
A Beautiful Day in LA.
The Cathedral Sanctuary at Immanuel Presbyterian. Hung out in the little cafes around the venue and the tour bus waiting for show time.

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(iii).
The Cathedral in LA. Beautiful sound.

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(iv).
From California, Arizona Colorado, by bus, what a journey….

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(v).
Union Pool, Brooklyn. “Sweet Home Stage” Launch of second album “Black Peak”.

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(vi).
Melbourne, March 11 2016. On the way to National Gallery to play at exhibition of Ai Weiwei and Andy Warhol.

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(vii).
Big Ears Festival in Knoxville TN April ’16. I met the big master Marshall Allen, great honour.

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(vii).
Car broke down, the band kept going. Pennsylvania, see you in Boston.

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(viii).
west coast, Portland Oregon, after show at Mississippi Studios, cold night, warm team, w Emmett Kelly, Sabrina Rush, west coast team.

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(ix).
Back to Europe from west coast USA: Krakow, Poland. Unsound Festival.

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(x).
Changing trains, heading to Birmingham.

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(xi).
4-day break back home. Crete. Before Tawain.

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(xii).
Taipei. Dumplings. Delicious. Love Love Rock Festival. On an old tea farm in the woods up in the hills, you see the villages around the hills. Magic.

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(xiii).
Back in the USA east coast team: marisa anderson, eliot, george, jim. Break on the road. Enjoyable to spend time with these people.

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(xiv).
Portsmouth NH. Breakfast time and singing after last night’s show together with Jonathan Richman and Tommy Larkins, one of my favorite shows ever.

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(xv).
thank you guys and see you soon again.

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(xvi).
‘Black Peak’ in Crete.

“Black Peak” by Xylouris White is available now on Bella Union.

 

http://www.xylouriswhite.com/
http://bellaunion.com/

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Loscil (Vancouver, Canada)

Loscil’s Scott Morgan has been responsible for some of the most captivating and stunningly beautiful ambient creations over the past fifteen years. Across a compelling body of work (beginning with the 2001 classic ‘Triple Point’) – the majority of which has been released on the immense Chicago-based imprint Kranky – Vancouver-based Morgan has developed his own unique style of textural rhythms that ceaselessly blur the lines of ambient, techno, drone and modern-classical. The recently released ‘Monument Builders’ – one of 2016’s finest gems – marks the latest chapter in Loscil’s explorations through sound that lies at the intersect between nature and humanity. Next March will see the release of Loscil’s highly anticipated debut collaboration with American cellist Mark Bridges under the name High Plains.

rugged Wyoming mountaintops
frostbitten and sprawling
frozen streams, lingering cello and chopped piano notes
a winter journey, listening on the precipice in a snowstorm
co-conspirator Bridges
dotted with horses, High Plains

building monuments
to the suns
brutalist pictures
Otic sessions
horns After Life
dancer inked and scratched on film

pretty good homecoming
square improvisation with Red

London fest
Peter’s choir
Paul at St Paul’s
french horn rehearsals
Barbican Wild Birds

cancer fighter
a humble face
filled with fear
but a survivor
a true Victor

the other London
borders after elections, nightmares
Chicago is too warm
travelling companion Benoît
constant polaroids
Detroit storms of many kinds
Philadelphia gatherings
New York Cuban cigars
flurries through the Adirondacks
Cohen shrines in a second home
Kingston surprises
Toronto warmth despite the cold

a quiet end
despite near Terror
so many farewells
starting anew

 

“Monument Builders” is available now on Kranky.

http://www.loscil.ca/
http://www.kranky.net/

 

With special thanks to all our readers and listeners for their support over the last twelve months. Wishing everyone a very happy and peaceful new year & best wishes for 2017.

Read our favourite albums of the year for 2016 HERE & listen to our December mixtape for La Blogothèque HERE.

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